More about print vs. electronic information...

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In my most recent blog entry, I said that digital information is more attractive and user-friendly than traditional media, especially print. Let me clarify. In Legal Research, we teach students that print and electronic sources are both useful, and that sometimes print sources are actually easier to use than electronic. My comment really meant to reflect the perception of many students. We are now teaching a generation of students who have principally performed research online, and seldom, if ever, using print. We often hear students ask if we really expect for them to perform research assignments using books. (Assignments require use of both print and databases.) Because of this, I was surprised when Prof. Barbara Bintliff, law librarian at the University of Colorado, sent a message through the law library directors' listserv that says that as part of a review of their legal writing program, she heard students request more instruction in using print resources. They indicated that their clerking experiences led them to use books much more than they thought they would. This was followed by several messages from other directors who agreed with Prof. Bintliff and said that their students also wanted more instruction in print. Prof. Richard Leiter at the University of Nebraska suggested that libraries that were over-zealous in replacing print sources with electronic would ultimately regret it.

 

I agree with many of my colleagues that print is still an incredibly efficient way to package and distribute information. There are many instances where it's easier and faster to find information in print, and also easier to place it in context because the hierarchical nature of information is represented in a more apparent fashion in print. That said, who wants to go back to poring over multiple volumes of Sherpard's citators to verify information, or consulting LSAs and Federal Registers to update federal regulations? The real challenge in Legal Research is to somehow convey to students who have grown up with Google that real research takes more than ten minutes to perform, and that much worthwhile information does not flicker on a screen.